Point Of View In Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun

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Limited third person is the most common point of view in which to write a novel, comprising over ninety percent of all modern fiction. While it is rare to write a novel not in third person, it is even more rare to write a novel utilizing more than one point of view. Although this technique of shifting between points of view is seen infrequently, it can be an effective way to develop different themes. Dalton Trumbo often shifts the point of view in his novel, Johnny Got His Gun, changing between first person, limited third person and second person. These changes in point of view convey ideas of the past, and guilt.
By using third person to describe events in the past and first person for those in the present, Trumbo is showing how people will …show more content…

The “he” in this sentence refers to Joe, when only a sentence earlier Trumbo had Joe thinking in first person, using the pronoun “I.” Joe’s current thoughts and feelings about his father are represented in first person, but by using third person to describe events that have already happened, Trumbo is showing how the new Joe no longer connects with the Joe of the past. Another example of this is when Joe thinks of Kareen. In his current state of mind he thinks, “I want the ring” (29). Shortly following this, Trumbo paints of vivid picture of Joe’s past experiences with Kareen by saying, “She looked at him in a way that made him want to cry” (31). When Joe is in the present he has a sense of self-identity, but he suffers from a loss of self-identity when thinking of the past. This is seen through Trumbo’s choice to depict the past in third person. It is as if the Joe in the present is a completely different person from the one in the past. Finally, Joe recounts a story about a former co-worker named Jose. Again using the shifting point of view. “He was saying how is everything with you Jose... I don’t know where you are Jose...” (79). Placing these two sentences so close to each other emphasizes the change in point of view. Additionally, having both sentences be similarly worded, except for the pronouns, shows the way in which Joe has distanced himself from the past; he has created a separate Joe, represented by the pronoun “he,” who lives only in his …show more content…

The word “you,” a pronoun used most commonly with second person, is used four times in times in this sentence. Although the “you” may not be directly addressed at the reader, it still evokes a sense of guilt when paired with dark diction such as “kill,” “urge,” and “battle.” Another example of this is seen when Joe refers to the horrors of war by thinking, “When you cut a man’s arm off you have to do something with it” (28). When used in the second person this sentence may shock the reader, since most people do not cut off other’s arms. Being directly addressed is even more surprising and may create feelings of shame and regret in the reader, because they believe they have the capability to do this horrid thing. Finally, Trumbo belittles the reader by saying, “I know the truth and you don’t you fools. You fools you fools you fools...” (232). The repetition mixed in with the pronoun “you” ingrains the message that Trumbo is speaking to the reader and not in a positive way. No one wants to be called a fool, but people tend to believe things more easily if they are spoken directly to. In this case, both the second person and repetition cause the reader to feel at fault for their supposed stupidity and horrid actions. Trumbo’s occasional use of the second person instills an unwarranted sense of guilt in the reader, in turn showing the horrors of war. Concepts of the past, and guilt are both demonstrated through Trumbo’s varied

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